“Amazing ecosystem” found during Parkend church’s Eco Weekend

Published: Friday June 30, 2023
Barrie Mills and Ken Ducker at the Eco Weekend
Barrie Mills (right) with Dr Chris Parsons from the Dean Meadows group at the Eco Weekend

St Paul’s Church, in Parkend, has held its first ‘Eco Weekend’ to celebrate the church’s forest meadow habitat while introducing members of the worshipping community to the ecosystem found there.

A small team at St Paul’s decided to hold an Eco Weekend in June as part of the Churches Count on Nature initiative. People from across the worshipping community were invited to the churchyard from 11am to 4pm each day, to give them an opportunity to learn more about the flora and fauna found in the churchyard.

Trish Ducker, Churchwarden, says, “We were originally going to hold the event earlier in June during the national Churches Count on Nature week but we realised our star flowers – the bee orchids – wouldn’t have been out, so we delayed the event by a fortnight. It was worth it as we found more bee orchids than last year!

The bee orchid is so called due to the flower resembling a female bee. Males fly in to try to mate with it and end up pollinating the flower. However, bee orchids are self-pollinated in the UK as the right species of bee doesn’t occur here.

Trish says, “The churchyard includes a meadow area and we maintain it in different ways – with sections for close-cut, open-grass and meadow mowing. This offers many different wildflower and grass systems, including the rare bee orchid. These were first seen here four summers ago and were the impetus we needed to reduce mowing and look carefully at different forms of management.”

Bee orchid at St Paul's Parkend
Bee orchid at St Paul’s Parkend

During the weekend, there were displays by the Gloucestershire Naturalist group and Dean Meadow group, as well as information about the bats and flowers found in the churchyard.

Trish says, “We have a wonderful asset in our green space here are St Paul’s which truly shows God’s Creation, and we feel it’s important to share it with our community. We can demonstrate that grass mowing doesn’t have to be done every fortnight and what can grow and thrive if it’s allowed to. We hope to inspire people to take this idea home for their own gardens, though this would still require some management.

“We also have five different species of bat in and around the churchyard. We know that the bats roost in the porch roofs, the bell tower and the old boiler flue in our church so we are careful to ensure they are not disturbed during hibernation and maternity periods. In between these times we clear up any mess, with this being recycled on the church allotments next door.”

Moths are a common insect found at the churchyard, and the team organised an expert to gather information on the species found and present his findings throughout the weekend.

Trish says, “Barrie Mills, a member of our PCC and the noted naturalist in our area, is part of the Gloucestershire Naturalists group and often gives talks to schools and other local organisations. At our Eco Weekend, he exhibited the moths that were collected each morning. Over 60 different species were found in the churchyard, including the very rare Convolvulus Hawk Moth.”

Over 40 people went along to the Eco Weekend including families from the village and members of other church meadow groups.

Trish says, “It was lovely to welcome so many people of all ages to the church. People were fascinated by the moths and are certainly now more aware of the amazing ecosystem found in our churchyard after coming to the Eco Weekend. They were surprised that there was so much wildlife in the churchyard and were able to understand why we weren’t mowing every area of the churchyard until August.”

Is your church running an eco event? We’d love to hear it! Email Kelly on ku.gr1713882528o.coi1713882528dsolg1713882528@newo1713882528k1713882528

For more information about signing up to becoming an Eco Church, visit: Eco Church in an hour

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